modern period” (which starts at the end of theeighteenth century and the beginning of the nine-teenth century), during which madness is consid-ered as a “mental illness,” for the sake of whichthe madmen are going to be separately incarcer-ated in “psychiatric asylums,” and subjectedto constant observation and therapy in the handsof the new “medico-psychiatric” personages.Foucault would not admit that there is progresshere; he rather thinks that there is occultation:under the mask of medical science, madness isstill excluded and punished.Now, the madmen themselves – a whole seriesof madmen of genius that have left us with a“work” that cannot easily be classified – begun toquestion the rupture between reason andmadness in the last century: Hölderlin,Nietzsche, Roussel, Artaud
. It is preciselythe “work” of these madmen of genius thatopened the door to a new epoch of thought, andto a new experience of language: beginning withthem, the wall separating reason and unreasoncollapsed, and among its ruins there arose thebeginning of a linkage between madness andliterature, the “I of delirium” and the “I” of the“I write,” the scream and the song. Thus, theCartesian Cogito was challenged and the cycleopened by “classical reason” to include the“confinement” over which that reason wasfounded was now closed. According to Foucault,this new space made his own labor of writingpossible, along with his own “archaeology” of knowledge and confinement, of reason andmadness. Later on, Foucault will go on toinscribe his own name and his own discourse onthis hereditary line of the family of these rebelmadmen, in the historical and discursive domainsopened by them. As for Freud, Foucault main-tained in this book (and in general in all hishistorical studies) one manifest ambiguity: some-times, he welcomed him as an heir of Nietzsche,and sometimes he condemned him as an heir of the medico-psychiatrists.
On 4th March 1963, at the CollègePhilosophique, Jacques Derrida gave a lectureentitled “Cogito and the History of Madness”;Michel Foucault was present in it (having beeninvited by Derrida himself by means of a letterin which the latter’s enthusiasm as well as hisdisagreement were already anticipated).
Derridawent on to confess his admiration, not only forthe book, but even more so for the teaching of Foucault, of whom he considered himself “anadmiring and grateful disciple.” Nevertheless, heproposed to “engage in dialogue with the master”and moreover to “break the glass, or better themirror, the reflection and the infinite speculation[of the disciple] on the master.” Concretely, hewent on to challenge Foucault’s interpretation of the first book of the Cartesian
.According to Derrida, “the reading of Descartesand the Cartesian Cogito proposed to us engagesin its problematic the totality of this
History of Madness
” (CHM 32). In the sequence, Derridatried to show:
That, on the road to the Cartesian doubt, theexample of the dream is much more decisiveand much more radical than the example of madness, when it comes to question the total-ity of the ideas of sensible origin.
That the theme of madness is not treated prop-erly at the moment of doubt (where it appearsonly rhetorically as a possible objection oraccusation of a reader to the writer – an objec-tion to which the writer will answer, precisely,with the example of the dream). It is treatedproperly only later on, in the Evil Geniushypothesis, when the question bears also onthe ideas of intelligible origin. But in this casethe Cogito is not affirmed through the exclu-sion or the confinement of madness, but ratherthrough the opposition between a determinatereason and a determinate madness – now thatthe act of the “Cogito is valid
even if I ammad
,” even if the Evil Genius deceives mecompletely.
That Descartes, at the moment of the Cogito,accedes to the “zero point” of thought, that is,to the point beyond the entire contradictionbetween reason and madness, beyond, there-fore, the total configuration of reason that ishistorically determined. Therefore, this“hyperbolic” point of the doubt cannot be